Lifestyle

Cigar Review

Alec & Bradley Gatekeeper Robusto Dominican Republic               5.0” x 50                 Medium                95-Rated I’ll start with this: I do not agree with Cigar Aficionado’s 91-point rating. As you can see above, I score it much higher. […]

Alec & Bradley Gatekeeper Robusto
Dominican Republic               5.0” x 50                 Medium                95-Rated

I’ll start with this: I do not agree with Cigar Aficionado’s 91-point rating. As you can see above, I score it much higher. The dark, Ecuador wrapper is thick and chewy, offering a lovely spicy-sweetness to the leathery, oaky undertones produces by the Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos within. I find the cigar medium in strength but quite full-flavored, with a complexity that changes throughout the slow burn. Each Gatekeeper Robusto opens and ends with a blast of red pepper, bookending a smooth, balanced profile.

cigar-Ave-Maria-Lionheart-Chancellor

Ave Maria Lionheart Chancellor
Nicaragua                      5.9” x 60                      Full             94-Rated

I love the smooth, elegant profile Ave Maria delivers. I also love the bold, eventful flavors AJ Fernandez can create. Lionheart skillfully combines these two profiles inside a 60-ring Gordo that burns slow and true. I get a wealth of flavor, including coffee bean, sweet cedar, white pepper and black tobacco. At several times throughout the 60+ minute burn-time, I pick up some stone fruit nuances. All the while, the finish is long and zesty, with thick, aromatic smoke that adds to the experience.

Nica Libre x AGANORSA Robusto
Nicaragua             5.0” x 50               Mellow-Full                 94-Rated

This Nicaraguan puro puts Nicaraguan tobaccos on full display. The milk chocolate brown wrapper is smooth and oily, while the dark tobaccos beneath offer a pre-light aroma that’s both barnyard and pepper. Each Robusto I burn coats my taste buds with bitter cocoa and roasted coffee. The subtle yet long aftertaste dusts my palate with spicy notes and more cocoa. The velvety mouthfeel is enjoyable, to say the least, adding a layer of complexity that sets this cigar apart from other puros.

Padilla Single Batch: Barrel Proof Toro
Nicaragua                    6.0” x 54                       Medium-Full                         93-Rated

I’ve had a lot of Padilla cigars during my illustrious tenure as an avid cigar enthusiast, but few have burned quite like the Barrel Proof blend. The flavor profile is unique. A hearty core of flavors that are both smokey and sweet, with an oakiness that clings to the palate. The San Andres wrapper lends a dense earthiness, while the Ometepe long-fillers create a soothing strength that’s felt behind the eyes. This cigar is incredibly unique and ultimately satisfying.

Rocky Patel The Edge Barrel-Aged Toro
Honduras                     6.0” x 52                           Medium-Full                      95-Rated

Don’t judge me for rating two cigars with barrel in the name. As a beer lover, I’m sold on anything ‘barrel.’ I’m also sold on this new Edge variety. Full-bodied and full-flavored, much of the tobacco used to craft this Habano-wrapped Honduran have been aged in bourbon barrels. The result is an elegant display of powerful flavors, including sweet oak, charred oak, leather and earth. The finish is a peppery sweetness, almost like caramel. There’s a lot going on, but it’s balanced, and I enjoy it immensely.

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Knowledge is Power when suffering from Hair Loss

Non-surgical Hair Replacement for Men and Women has become increasingly more popular among all age groups due to its ease of care and the undetectable appearance. Did you know approximately 35 million men and about 20 million women suffer from hair loss? Many people have a false idea of the costs associated with hair replacement […]

Non-surgical Hair Replacement for Men and Women has become increasingly more popular among all age groups due to its ease of care and the undetectable appearance. Did you know approximately 35 million men and about 20 million women suffer from hair loss? Many people have a false idea of the costs associated with hair replacement services, and therefore, never take the time to speak with a specialist. There are many options available today to restore your hair within almost any budget. A client can produce a photo of a haircut or style and take a natural-looking hair system that perfectly integrates into your existing hair to create that look you want. Richard Kroll Total Image Salon has been delivering that creation to Men and Women for over 40+ years in the Lehigh Valley. The full-service salon offers two entrances for both ease and privacy. The salon offers a full range of solutions for everyone depending on the needs and circumstances at hand. Items available, but not limited to, are 100% Human and Synthetic Cranial Prosthesis, full wigs and human hair systems, Women’s Toppers, as well as a line of exclusive hair extensions designed to produce healthy hair growth.  All hair replacement customers are serviced in a private back room where they can be out of the public eye.

How do you know if you are a candidate for hair replacement? Typically, when you start to notice the regression of hair loss in specific areas or all over, this will raise concern for anyone. The most important thing to do is schedule a private consultation with someone who truly has the background and knowledge to deal with hair loss. This type of consultation will cover a wide range of topics from your current lifestyle, that may be attributing to the loss, or even taking a more in-depth look into your medical history. Once the root of the problem is revealed, you can then have an idea of what can be done to slow down the hair loss or to create a new look utilizing several forms of hair replacement options. Richard Kroll Total Image can custom create a look to ensure everything is undetectable and that you can still live an active lifestyle with virtually zero restrictions while living your life with more confidence. The salon specializes in all types of causes of hair loss ranging from chemotherapy & radiation patients, trichotillomania, lupus, gastric bypass surgery patients, hormonal changes, thyroid conditions, stress, burns, accident, head trauma victims and natural thinning. In most instances, depending on the cause of your hair loss, medical insurance may cover a portion of the costs associated with hair replacement.

Richard Kroll Total Image also deals with pre- and post-chemotherapy patients. When someone calls and needs information on purchasing a wig, they are given a private consultation where their concerns can be addressed and allows us to find the right fit for them. We customize that medical wig to be as close to their hairstyle and color as they are accustomed. The salon strives and takes great pride in knowing they can get a wig to be almost an exact replica of the client’s hair prior to any radiation or chemotherapy treatments. The wigs are designed solely for the comfort and sensitivities of the scalp while giving a secure fit and maintaining a completely natural look.

Another form of hair rejuvenation the salon offers is Low-Level Laser Light Therapy, or “cool laser”, that effectively stimulates the scalp area and causes an increase in blood flow called photo-biostimulation. There is an increase in blood circulation by 54% after only one treatment. This form of hair rejuvenation has been cleared and approved by the FDA.

So, if you find yourself or someone you know in the situation of hair loss or thinning, take the first steps to schedule a consultation at Richard Kroll Total Image Salon and educate yourself on different options available to you.

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The World’s First 7 Star Hotel

Located on a man-made island off the coast of Dubai, the Burj Al Arab is considered to be the first 7 Star resort in the world.  Operated by the Jumeirah hotel chain, this stunning hotel stands at 1,053 feet tall, which makes it the fourth tallest hotel in the world. The iconic shaped hotel, which […]

Located on a man-made island off the coast of Dubai, the Burj Al Arab is considered to be the first 7 Star resort in the world.  Operated by the Jumeirah hotel chain, this stunning hotel stands at 1,053 feet tall, which makes it the fourth tallest hotel in the world.

The iconic shaped hotel, which dominates the Dubai skyline and appears like a sail, cost over 1 billion dollars to erect.  Built-in 1999, the Burj Al Arab has won numerous awards as the most luxurious hotel in the world.   Tom Wright of WKK Architects designed this hotel.  It has been compared to legendary structures like the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, or London’s Big Ben.   Tom Wright used images of the Arabian sailboats, known as Dhows, as his inspiration.

This all-suite hotel is full of luxurious extravagances such as a Rolls-Royce chauffeur, the 14-piece set of Hermès toiletries in every bathroom, 13-selection pillow menus, several personal butlers for each suite, and 24 karat gold everything.

Each of the 202 suites contains two-floors with marble staircases and a mini office that has either a MacBook or a gold-plated iPad.   There are TVs that rise from mahogany desks, and electronic remotes control the blinds, doors, music and allow you to message your butler at any time of the day.  The Burj boasts a 6:1 staff to guest ratio.   Notable celebrities that have frequented the Burj include Tom Cruise, David Beckham, Giorgio Armani, John Travolta, and the Kardashian’s.

The Burg Al Arab has nine restaurants and bars with three Michelin class chefs.   This beachfront hotel also operates an exotic aquarium and a team of marine biologists.  Their Al Mahara’s restaurant features the stunning floor to ceiling aquarium and creates a unique dining atmosphere.

This hotel has a glamorous spa as well as 4 swimming pools, 2 of which are indoor.

The opulence of this hotel begins at the driveway that leads to the private island.  Getting into the Burj requires a hotel reservation or a dining reservation, and security is tight.  Guests dining can only arrive 30 minutes prior to their reservation, and they must leave following their meal.

One of the highlights of this hotel is the high tea on the 27th floor at the Skyview Bar.  Here you can see the entire Dubai coastline from the floor to ceiling windows.

The 7-star experience comes with a $2000 per night price tag for their entry priced suite, and the Royal Suite will set you back $24,000 per night.

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Cigar Review

 E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic Dominican Republic               5.6” x 52                 Medium-Full                96-Rated Spoiler Alert: this is among the finest cigars I’ve ever burned. I describe this cigar as luxurious. I also call it unique, because every […]

 E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic
Dominican Republic               5.6” x 52                 Medium-Full                96-Rated

Spoiler Alert: this is among the finest cigars I’ve ever burned. I describe this cigar as luxurious. I also call it unique, because every leaf that comprises this cigar is grown in the black soils of Nicaragua and has been aged ‘en tercio’ for a minimum of 2 years, resulting in a refined yet interesting bouquet. Big notes of rich tobacco and sweet cedar boom with each puff. Sweet, savory notes linger after each exhale. From time to time I pick up some caramel and some tea. The entire time I’m soothed by the cigar’s deceivingly bold profile. Make time for this cigar, and make sure your palate is clean prior to lighting.

John Bull The Dark Hour Churchill
Dominican Republic                      7” x 50                      Medium             92-Rated

I typically review expensive, top-shelf cigars. But the value hound in me never overlooks a cigar, or wine, or scotch, or whatever, due to price. John Bull The Dark hour is my latest reason why. This inexpensive cigar is jam-packed with the rich, bold flavors I prefer: dark tobacco, espresso, earth, cocoa. It’s made with aged long-fillers from the Dominican and an oily Maduro wrapper that lends a natural sweetness to the mix. The cigar is legitimately complex and savory, and something I can burn daily after a big lunch or early dinner. I highly suggest this cigar for the full-flavored fan.

Macanudo Heritage Nuevo Toro
Dominican Republic              6.0” x 52               Mellow-Medium                 94-Rated

While my taste has evolved beyond the classic Macanudo Café, I still crave a mellow cigar from time to time and Macanudo Heritage Nuevo hits the spot. I consider the cigar sophisticated, with subtle notes of cedar, cashew, toast, and sweet tobacco present throughout the burn. There’s an underlying creaminess from the Ecuador Connecticut wrapper, and a sweet pepper influence from the Mexican long-fillers. For a mellow cigar, there’s a lot going on here, and enough to interest those typically reaching for stronger cigars.

My Father La Promesa Corona Gordo
Nicaragua                    5.5” x 48                       Medium-Full                         92-Rated

The product of Jose ‘Don Pepin’ Garcia, My Father La Promesa employs a bold blend of Nicaraguan long-fillers, creating a rich core of oak, leather and nuts with each puff. The Ecuador Habano Oscuro wrapper is thick and leathery, adding a hickory-like element to the smoke, along with a dash of pepper on the finish. The cigar pumps out heavy clouds of gray smoke, emitting an oily, almost charcoal-esque aroma that fills the room. I love the bold complexity of this cigar and find it to be a nice nightcap alongside a tawny port.

Southern Draw Cedrus Belicoso Fino
Nicaragua                     5.5” x 52                           Medium-Full                      93-Rated

Please know, I highly recommend this cigar. Please also know, this cigar can be hard to find at times. Four vintage long-filler varieties marry inside a Nicaraguan Habano 2000 binder, before a milk chocolate brown Sumatra wrapper from Indonesia completes the cigar. The result is a delicious, medium to full array of deep, complex flavors including cedar, baked bread, cream, coffee and white pepper. Low production may lead to touchy availability, but I promise the experience is worth the potential search.

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Consider Italy for your Winter Destination Vacation

Winter can be a great time to visit Italy – Skiing the Italian Alps, uncrowded art cities, plenty of cultural events, Italian comfort foods, and leisurely tastings at wineries where the pace slows and becomes an intimate afternoon with a winemaker. Shoppers will find deep discounts in stores from January through March in every region […]

Winter can be a great time to visit Italy – Skiing the Italian Alps, uncrowded art cities, plenty of cultural events, Italian comfort foods, and leisurely tastings at wineries where the pace slows and becomes an intimate afternoon with a winemaker. Shoppers will find deep discounts in stores from January through March in every region of Italy.

Here are a few suggestions for a winter vacation in Italy:

Winter Sports

The Italian Alps offer the ultimate winter getaway. The Dolomites are a UNESCO Heritage Site and offer some of the best skiing in a majestic setting. Cortina d’Ampezzo was home to the 1956 Winter Olympics and will again be hosting in 2026. It is part of the Dolomiti Superski, one of the world’s largest ski circuits with over 450 miles of slopes across 12 ski regions and one ski pass. Cortina is one of Italy’s most charming villages. Trentino’s Val di Fassa also has excellent ski zones with incredible views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and the Sestriere resort in Piedmont’s region has 146 trails covering over 250. The nighttime skiing is an added bonus, becoming a magical trip down the mountain into the twinkling lights of the town below.

The Corno alle Scale in the region of Emilia Romano is perfect for families. With over 15 miles of ski slopes and the longest slope on the Apennines, uninterrupted for almost 2 miles. There are also two cross country ski loops, snowboarding, and snowshoeing trails, and a baby park where every Bolognese child has learned to ski.

For non-skiers, there is a lot to entertain on any mountain slope: Go for the outstanding views, including the beautiful jagged peaks of the Dolomites soaring above you and picturesque towns and ice-covered lakes tucked in the valleys below. Clear blue skies and dazzling sunshine frame the snow-covered mountains while cable cars and gondolas not only accommodate skiers and non-skiers but are also the only way to the many “rifugi” – the wooden chalet restaurants that dot the mountains. Here you can have a long leisurely lunch or warm up with a hot drink called a Bombardino, a mixture of Zabaglione and brandy. The villages are charming with Tyrolean architecture and cobbled streets, ideal for strolling, shopping, and dining.

The Art Cities of Florence, Rome, and Venice

The cities are less crowded, except of course for Venice’s Carnival. Italian cities are famous for lighting their buildings and monuments, and early winter sunsets give you more time to enjoy the cities in the dark. Evening walks on the quiet and picturesque streets, and squares are quite impressive without the crowds and something you won’t soon forget.

While Museums may have shorter hours, they won’t have the long lines or crowds, allowing you to move at your own pace. Theaters, concerts, and operas abound in the winter months, and outdoor skating rinks can be found in some of the cities. Italy’s high-speed trains connect most of the country’s major cities, making it easier to expand your itinerary.

Carnevale

The most famous “final party” before Ash Wednesday is held in Venice. But Carnevale is held in other cities across Italy. Some of the most well-known to Italians can be found in Tuscany, Verona, Apulia, Piedmont, and even Sardinia.

Carnevale di Viareggio in Tuscany takes place in the seaside village of Viareggio, located along the Tuscan Riviera. The highlight is the parade of floats with satirical caricatures of famous people, many political. It was first organized in 1873 to protest high taxes. Today it still keeps its satiric wit to vent their discontent.

Bacanal del Gnoco – Verona, Veneto region. This Carnival dates back 500 years when Verona was suffering from a food shortage. A local nobleman donated flour to every citizen so they can make gnocchi. From that time on, he mandated to donate gnocchi and wine every year on the last Friday of Carnival. Now the day is in his honor when housewives and restaurants all serve gnocchi. The parade is led by Papa de Gnocchio – the symbol of the generous nobleman who fed the entire population during the famine.

Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Piedmont. One of the most popular festivals in the world, it recalls the Battle of the Oranges of 1194 against the Barbarossa and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick of Swabia. Each year they ride large carts through town hurling oranges at each other. The ultimate and largest food fight.

Carnevale di Putignano – Apulia. Dating back to 1394, it is the longest celebration lasting from December 26 up until Mardi Gras ending with an all-day parade celebrating the Carnival’s end with large floats.

Carnevale Mamoiadino – Sardinia. This ancient pagan tradition features the Mamuthones, men in black masks and dark fur coats with cowbells on their backs dancing against the Issohadores, who are distinguished by white masks in red uniforms. They march through the village of 2500 performing traditional dances around bonfires.

Sicily

The winter months are pleasant, and the crowds are the gone making it an ideal destination in the winter.

Like the major art cities on the mainland, Sicily’s villages and cities are ideal for enjoying them alongside the Sicilians. The piazzas will be full sunny, streets will be free of tourists, solo walks on the beaches of seaside villages offer a new experience in an intimate way. Restaurants return to the natives and are serving seasonal dishes you won’t find on the menu in the summer. Agrigento’s annual Almond Blossom Festival and Siracusa’s Festival of Saint Lucia are celebrated each February.

The average temperature is in the 60’s but also promises good skiing in the northern areas of Etna and the Palermo mountains. The food festivals, or Sagro, shift to chestnuts, citrus fruits, mulled wine, sweet and savory fried dumplings.

And of course, each city holds their own Carnevale with colorful floats and parties.

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Cigar Review

5 Vegas Limitada 2019  | Toro Honduras                   6.0” x 50                    Medium                93-Rated I always look forward to this annual release. The 2019 variety is blended with aged ligeros from the Dominican and […]

5 Vegas Limitada 2019  | Toro
Honduras                   6.0” x 50                    Medium                93-Rated

I always look forward to this annual release. The 2019 variety is blended with aged ligeros from the Dominican and Nicaragua bound by a genuine Cameroon leaf. A chestnut-brown Nicaraguan wrapper completes the cigar. I find this handmade to be medium in body, but rich and smooth throughout. I get notes of espresso bean and oak up front and sweet cedar on the finish. Now and then a peanut-like flavor from the Cameroon binder shines through. The finale has a dash of pepper, completing a complex yet soothing cigar fit for anytime enjoyment.

CAO Flathead V19  | Robusto
Nicaragua                       5.5” x 50                      Full             94-Rated

Dark and oily. Solid from head to toe. Heavy in the hand. CAO Flathead V19 is a dense handmade with a luxurious, barnyard pre-light aroma. Well-aged long-fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican reside within a Connecticut Habano binder, which is then hugged by a dark chocolate brown Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. I find this to be CAO’s fullest and most flavorful blend to date. Rich, dense smoke offers notes of leather and earth, while a semi-sweet molasses lingers on the aftertaste. I enjoy this cigar after a big feast from the grill.

Diesel Whiskey Row Sherry Cask  Gigante
Nicaragua                   6.0” x 58                     Medium                       92-Rated

A dark, toothy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper conceals a vintage blend of Nicaraguan long-fillers secured by a feisty Arapiraca binder from Brazil. The binder, which has been patiently aged in oak sherry casks, lends layers of flavor to an already complex bouquet. Sweet cedar and bittersweet chocolate mingles with pepper and a unique, stone fruit nuance on the finish. A satisfying and eventful profile, that’s smooth, medium in body and would pair extremely well with a bold red wine, port or aged bourbon.

TatuajeMexican2

Tatuaje Mexican Experiment II  | Belicoso
Nicaragua                    5.0” x 52                       Full                         94-Rated

Big, heavy in the hand, dark and oily, solid from head to toe and softly box-pressed. That’s the look and feel of this 60-ring Man O’ War. From the get-go, the flavor is bold and pronounced. An earthy spice blasts the front of the palate, while each puff pumps out thick, pillowy clouds of gray, aromatic smoke above. The spice mellows after an inch, giving way to notes of leather and oak that linger long on the aftertaste. Midway through, the cigar grows more powerful down to the nub, with satisfying spices returning just before the end. A complex and eventful cigar.

ZinoScepter

Zino Platinum Scepter Series  | Grand Master
Nicaragua                     5.5” x 52                           Mellow                      93-Rated

To me, a good cigar is something I can light up, enjoy and not think about. If I’m thinking, something is off. With the Scepter Series, everything is on. Every Grand Master I’ve ever had has been perfectly soothing and smooth. I find it elegant, displaying subtle hints of coffee and cream with a touch of nougat and nuts. The smoke is velvety, forming thick clouds of white smoke and a sweet, cedar aroma. Few cigars pair as well with coffee than this Connecticut-wrapped, Dominican and Peruvian-filled premium.

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Four Season Resort at Sayan, Bali

Nestled on a hillside on the banks of the Ayung River in Ubud, Bali sits the five-star Four Seasons at Sayan Resort.  Named by Travel and Leisure as the #1 resort in the world in 2018, the Four Seasons at Sayan is a stunning resort that WOWs guests immediately upon arrival. The entrance to the […]

Nestled on a hillside on the banks of the Ayung River in Ubud, Bali sits the five-star Four Seasons at Sayan Resort.  Named by Travel and Leisure as the #1 resort in the world in 2018, the Four Seasons at Sayan is a stunning resort that WOWs guests immediately upon arrival. The entrance to the lobby is dramatically positioned at the end of a suspension bridge set high above the treetops where guests descend from the roof above.  The bridge ends at an infinity-edge lotus pond with 360 views of the terraced rice paddies, river, and jungles below.  This open-air pavilion leads down through a spiral staircase to the main restaurant, spa, gym, and the resort’s 18-acre property.

Architect John Heah incorporated the natural beauty of the surrounding area, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage listed irrigation network to transport guests into a tropical paradise, removed from the hustle of Ubud.  With only 60 accommodations, which include 18 suites and 42 villas, this Four Seasons is uncommonly smaller, which makes their guest to staff ratio incredibly high.  The staff prides itself in calling their guests by their names within hours of check-in.

The 42 villa accommodations feature huge private plunge pools, outdoor living space with Bali beds, and four-poster king-size beds; complete with elaborate canopy netting. The décor is a blend of contemporary and traditional Balinese features that include complimentary incense, snacks, tea/coffee, and nightly turndown is highlighted with a small vial of essential oils that promote a well-nights-rest.   Complimentary services for all guests include cooking classes, garden tours, several yoga classes, and free transfers into the town of Ubud every 2 hours.  The yoga pavilion is an open-air bamboo yoga hut which is positioned among the rice fields.  The pavilion specializes in anti-gravity yoga, and several classes are offered (additional fees apply).

With three dining options, as well as in-room dining, the various restaurants incorporate produce grown on their property as well as infusing their menu with Indonesian specialty dishes.  Known for creating intimate in-destination experiences, the Four Seasons at Sayan has designed several unique Balinese excursions for guests to get up close and personal with their surroundings at an additional cost.  These options include: private rafting down the Ayung River (with access to the river from the resort), biking through the Kintamani Village, a secret bathing ritual at a very secluded ancient water temple or experiencing a day in the life of a Balinese rice farmer.

The Four Seasons Resort at Sayan celebrated its 20th year in 2018 and continues to deliver an authentic Balinese experience combined with five-star luxuries that exceed expectations.

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Let’s go drink a shadow, Venetian style Cicheti – A fabulous Venetian tradition

When a Venetian invites you for a drink, they’ll say  Andemo bever un’ombra   –  “Let’s go drink a shadow”  Venetians have a lovely tradition of meeting friends after work in their neighborhood wine bars for a quick glass of wine and some savory bite-sized snacks before heading home for dinner. This tradition dates back to […]

When a Venetian invites you for a drink, they’ll say  Andemo bever un’ombra   –  “Let’s go drink a shadow”  Venetians have a lovely tradition of meeting friends after work in their neighborhood wine bars for a quick glass of wine and some savory bite-sized snacks before heading home for dinner.

This tradition dates back to the 12th century when ships unloaded their wine cargo at the Riva degli Schiavoni. Some savvy entrepreneurs set up wine stands under the shaded base of the nearby Bell Tower in Piazza San Marco.  To keep the wine cool, the stands moved around the base of the tower as the shadows (Ombra) shifted. Following the shadow kept the wine as cool as possible on a sunny day.  This tradition of stopping to drink a shadow has existed among Venetians ever since.

Eventually, the stands moved inside, and the wine bar “ bacaro” was born.  For centuries, the wine bar was the place for Venetians to stop for a drink before heading home after work.  Barkeepers soon realized their clients needed something to ‘absorb’ the alcohol and started offering little finger foods called cicheti.

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The small wine bars I visit today remind me of when my Venetian relatives took me to my first bacaro in 1979. I can still remember walking over the threshold into a cozy, small, dark bar.  There were no chairs, only a long wooden bar with a glass front that showcased the many savory offerings on a long line of white plates –   grilled polenta topped with creamy cod, mozzarella fried in a bread ‘boat’, baby squid stuffed with olives, fried zucchini flowers, the tiniest sandwich of Venetian crab, Crostini were skewered with toothpicks that secured a pickled onion to an anchovy topped with a tart berry, or a thick slab of mortadella pinched between a pistachio and sweet pickle.  Toothpicks let you know you are about to experience a burst of flavor from the many ingredients it was holding together.  Since there was no seating, if you were lingering a little longer than normal, you could rest your plates or glass on a wood shelf that ran the length of the wall, or if you were lucky on the top of the bar itself.

The baccari haven’t changed much since my first visit. The back bar still holds as many plump demijohns it can hold, each one with a different wine from the Veneto and the walls are lined with more wine bottles.

The aroma is still intoxicating – the bouquets of red and white wines past and present mingled with the heavenly scents of cured meats, salty seafood, sweet and sour from the popular Venetian dish Sarde in Saor, cheeses and fried vegetables, herbs and olive oil.  It is culinary nirvana.

Venice’s secret has now become popular with tourists. So much so that you can find many tour operators offering a cicheti wine tour. If you want to see the authentic side of this Venetian secret, I’ve included a list of our favorite bacari in order of sequence.  If you prefer to be in the company of a Venetian Papavero Villa Rentals can arrange one of their friends who will take you to the wine bars where the locals hang out.

Many bacari are open during the lunch hour as well.  If you want to mingle with the locals, make sure you are off the beaten path as most are hidden on quiet streets, and stop in right before noon or between 6 and 8 in the evening. Cicheti are meant for a quick snack before dinner, but it’s a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy a meal and ideal if you don’t have much time between museums.

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Wines and foods found in a Venetian Wine Bar

The Veneto is the largest wine-producing region in Italy. It has 28 DOC’s and 14 DOCG’s some sharing territory with bordering regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. Millions of bottles are shipped around the world, but they say the largest consumers are the locals.  So, try something you may be unfamiliar with when visiting a Venetian bacari and embrace the local ‘table’ wines. The best way to sample Venice’s authentic cuisine is by visiting a few bacari as that  bacari will have their own specialties as well as some of these favorites,  some bacari will specialize in seafood, cheeses, meats, etc. so make sure to stop in more than once during your stay in one of our  Venice apartment vacation rentals.

These are some of Venice’s most popular cicheti

  • Crostini: slices of bread with various toppings
  • Polpette: meat, fish or vegetable fritters
  • Baccalà mantecato: creamed cod served on chargrilled planks of polenta
  • Folpetti: boiled baby octopus sliced in half and dressed with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper
  • Sarde fritte: fried sardines
  • Sarde in saor: fried sardines marinated in white onion, wine vinegar, raisins and pine nuts
  • Mezzo uovo: half-boiled egg topped with capers, pickles or anchovies
  • Insalata di piovra: octopus salad with extra virgin olive oil, herbs
  • Mortadella e peperone: a thick slice of mortadella with a pickled sweet pepper
  • Fetta di salame: thick slice of salami
  • Cipolline con l’acciuga: pickled onion with an anchovy
  • Seppioline fritte: fried baby squid (only when in season and quite expensive)
  • Seppie o calamari all griglia: grilled squid or calamari
  • Cappesante al Forno – oven baked sea scallops on the half shell

 

How to order

 Cicheti are generally charged by piece or by portion. In most places, the price tag is placed just in front of the relative nibble, but other times… well, it’s just missing! In such cases, don’t hesitate to ask the barkeeper.  More or less, in each bacari, you will spend on average from 3 to 7 euros per person.

The bar/ counter is usually at the entrance, so choose what you want, pay, and try to find a spot for yourself. Most bacari place a wooden shelf or wine barrels just outside so that clients can put down their glass and have free hands.  Some now even have tables outside where you can sit.  In general, when it comes to cicheti walks, during the day the experience is more about the food, whereas in the evening the main focus is the drinking and socializing!   When time is tight, you can always make a meal out of grazing through the abundant cicheti that are offered.

 

You own Cicheti Walk

If you want to experience Venice like a Venetian, take this independent cicheti walk, through some of Venice’s most picturesque streets.   Most of the wine bars are in the Cannaregio and San Polo districts, the less touristy areas of Venice and home to most working-class Venetians.

This itinerary starts at the train station but jump in anywhere and visit as many as you like.  Considering a leisurely walk, and some time to enjoy each wine bar, this itinerary will take from   4 to 5 hours to complete.

With the train station to your back, take the busy street Lista di Spagna on your right and immediately charge your batteries with a quick stop at:

 

Al Cicheto

Address: Cannaregio, Calle de la Misericordia 367/A, 30121

Our first destination, a small wine bar managed by two brothers, with a carefully selected wine list and a really excellent baccalà mantecato. The interior is in dark wood and the atmosphere friendly.

 

Vecia Carbonera

Address: Canneregio 2329, Venezia 30100

Proceed along Strada Nuova, the main street, until you reach Vecia Carbonera. This is one of my favorite locations as, differently from most osterie, it has a spacious interior, and it’s possible to sit down. There is no table service (thus, no extra cost), so you order at the counter, pay, and relax. The counter is at the right of the entrance and has a very rich window with a wide variety of crostini, fish skewers, gratin veg and individual portions of dishes like aubergines parmigiana. I suggest trying the crostini with chicken livers and the ones with ricotta and zucchini.

 

Paradiso Perduto
Address: Cannaregio, Fondamenta della Misericordia 2540, 30121

Located in Fondamenta della Misericordia, Paradiso has been open for ages. It’s colorful, it’s lively and always very busy. I usually have an ombra and a small portion of octopus salad, but you should also try the grilled polenta with baccalà mantecato and the fried sardines.

 

Vino Vero
Address: Cannaregio, Fondamenta della Misericordia 2497, 30121

Only a few metres away, Vino Vero is specialized in natural wine (thus, they don’t serve ombre) and quality crostini. In the display window, you will only see the crostini, but it’s also possible to ask for a small salad or a selection of cured meats and cheese, which is prepared at the moment. Among the crostini, my favorites are the ones with seppie in nero (squid in ink) and the ones with spicy chicory, anchovies and cheese.

 

Trattoria alla Vedova
Address: Cannaregio, Ramo Ca’ d’Oro 3912, 30121

Located in a side calle of Strada Nuova, it is one of the oldest osterie in Venice and is renowned for its garlicky polpette. The tables are reserved for the restaurant (also very good), and there isn’t a lot of space inside, so we normally order at the counter and the step outside. If the situation is quite, I suggest trying the boiled latti di seppia (boiled squid eggs) and the fondi di carciofo (heart of the artichoke).

 

Promessi Sposi
Address: Cannaregio, Calle dell’Oca 4367, 30121

Slightly hidden, this place has become very popular. The tables are reserved for the restaurant and those enjoying wine and cicheti stand either at the counter or in the street. Promessi Sposi is known for the skewers with three small fried meatballs, but I also recommend the sarde in saor and the sardines in beccafico style, thus rolled and stuffed with a trite of breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, raisins, pine nuts and vinegar. They also have a good offer of vegetables!

 

Sepa
Address: San Marco, Calle de la Bissa 5482, 30124

Before crossing the Rialto Bridge, consider stopping at Sepa. Although it’s not exactly an osteria, this recently opened take away is specialized in traditional Venetian cuisine. In addition to the various cicheti, every day at 1 pm, they prepare a risotto, which I highly recommend trying! Besides being delicious, I find it has a very good value for money (3 euros for half a portion and 5 euros for a full portion).

 

Gislon
Address: San Marco, Calle de la Bissa 5424/a, 30124

At one minute from Sepa, Gislon is the reference stop for mozzarella in carrozza, a local treat made by frying two slices of white bread previously into whipped eggs and stuffed with mozzarella and either prosciutto or anchovies.

 

Bancogiro
Address: San Polo, Campo San Giacometto 122, 30125

This wine bar was the first to open after the vegetable whole market was moved to the Tronchetto area. The location itself is stunning. From the late XVI century to the fall of the Republic it used to be a bank, then it changed function and currently hosts this fancy wine bar and restaurant. The selection of wine is of excellent quality (no ombre here) and the cicheti on offer really inviting. I suggest trying a variety of crostini and their sarde in saor.

 

Al Merca’
Address: Campo Bella Vienna 213, 30125

A few meters away, in campo Bella Vienna, Al Marca’ offers small panini with different fillings and meat, fish and aubergine fritters. My favourite sandwich is tuna and radicchio.

 

I Compari
Address: San Polo, Campo de la Pescaria, 255/A, 30125

A recent acquisition, I Compari is managed by a kind man from Padova called Simone. Located right in front of the fruit and veg market, this is the place for folpetti, boiled baby octopus dressed with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. In addition to the octopus, the baccalà in red is superb and at lunch time it’s also possible to have express dishes. Excellent value for money and friendly and attentive service.

 

All’ Arco
Address: San Polo 436, 30125

Probably the most written about Venetian osteria, All’Arco has maintained quality through the years. A family business made of passionate people that pay great attention to ingredient sourcing. When you step in, you will find yourself in front of a rich window filled with crostini, fried baccalà (a must-have), francobolli (tiny squared tramezzini sandwiches), boiled fish, and more. Choose, order, and hope to find a free chair!

 

Cantina Do Mori
Address: San Polo 429, 30125

The ambiance is completely different, wider, and darker. The food? Delicious! My favorite is the pickled baby onion with anchovy, but if you are into milder flavors don’t worry, you will still be spoilt by choice. From crostini with marinated fish to veg spreads (try the asparagus or the artichoke ones), from revisited tramezzini to boiled baby octopus, from half-boiled eggs to rolled grilled and marinated aubergine topped with dried tomato and -obviously- lots and lots of wine.

Before continuing with our endeavors, we’re going to leave Rialto and head towards Dorsoduro for our final stop.

 

Cantinone del Vino già Schiavi
Address: Dorsoduro 992, F.ta Nani, 30123

Another historical wine bar, where it’s possible to taste an incredible variety of crostini with an endless assortment of toppings (my favorite: nettle sauce and brie cheese). Easy going and friendly atmosphere, it’s nice to order and then step outside and enjoy the drinks along the canal. Only a few meters away, one of the oldest squeri (shipyard for gondolas) in Venice.

If for some reason you are still hungry, stop in at the Bar Toletta for a Tramezzino.  Or save it for another day. 

 

Bar Toletta
Address: Dorsoduro 1191, 30123

Here you won’t find cicheti, but… another renowned local specialty called tramezzino. Tramezzini are triangular sandwiches made with white bread (with the crust removed), mayo and stuffed with different fillings, a quintessential Venetian street food experience in Venice, usually one of the first things Venetians do when they return home after a vacation. Bites of pure pleasure, perfect to end your walk.

  

Patrice Salezze is the owner of Papavero Villa Rentals, offering villa and apartment rentals throughout Italy.

You can reach her at Patrice@PapveroRentals.com or call her at 610 224  1004

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summer-2019-becoming-your-own-fitic

Become Your Own Fitic

Welcome to Summer 2019! For many of us, this announcement brings excitement and ideas for warm weather freedom experiences. Many of these said new freedoms are usually tied to new stressors regarding time management though. We all want healthier impacts on our daily lifestyles; however, we need first to recognize that there will be negative […]

Welcome to Summer 2019! For many of us, this announcement brings excitement and ideas for warm weather freedom experiences. Many of these said new freedoms are usually tied to new stressors regarding time management though. We all want healthier impacts on our daily lifestyles; however, we need first to recognize that there will be negative occurrences while we are experiencing the positives along the way. These initial points all tie into why we need to keep up our awareness as our own Fitic. That’s right; it’s time to become your own fitness critic!

The first step is realizing that time management is a real challenge, especially as we are bringing new challenges into our healthy lifestyle alignment. Now on the point of awareness, it’s important to realize that many of us have different lifestyle goals and obligations that impact those goals. Some of these obligations can include extended family, children, summer education programs, entrepreneurial side hustles, etc. Now let’s add in the new goals which have become summer obligations which can include summer parties, graduations, weddings, camping trips, day hiking, cycling events, fitness competitions, racing, international travels, etc. Either way, you look at it, many of us seem to find more time in our standard 24-hour day to do more things when the summer occurs.

Now the big point behind becoming your own Fitic is that we must realize that we could be possibly missing out on important health and fitness alignment activities. Adding in new events with friends, family, or even by yourself means that priorities have shifted. Many of us get so busy that our situational awareness has dropped when it comes to taking care of ourselves. We cut back on proper sleep cycles, skip that workout, or get so busy that we allow ourselves that processed fast food. Part of becoming a great self-aware Fitic is realizing that we all should be trying to “S.E.N.D It” in life. S.E.N.D. defined represents Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, and that important mindset component of Determination. If we expect to “Send It” all summer long and outperform our other seasonal periods of the year, we have to take care of ourselves. That is where S.E.N.D. comes into play when you are learning to “Become Your Own Fitic.”

Overall fitness has been defined in many ways. It is important that each of us realize that we are all at different places on the timeline of life. Your fit friend at work might be further down the timeline on the knowledge that they acquired to get them to where they are. So S.E.N.D. keeps it simple; those four components of Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, and Determination gives you a strong foundation to focus on. Afterall we can’t forget that classic KISS Method, Keep It Super Simple.

Many of us don’t realize that no one is going to help us reach our goals but for ourselves. If you are going to build out your summer schedule with challenging goals, then you need to own them as your own. You agreed to the commitments, so step up and own them. Do not pass blame or pass accountability to someone else in your friends and family circle if items are not being achieved. Another big secret to success is defining your WHY behind everything you do that will pair up with your accountability. Taking the time to truly define that WHY will help you fuel your passions when the days get tough. This is your mind, your body, and your spirit. So, you need to take accountability for it and become your own best Fitic.

There are a lot of different gurus out there that will point you in different directions. This is your Why in your life, so you need to find what works for you. Many of us are so overwhelmed that we don’t even get to start, let alone being figuring out what it is that will work for us. One of the biggest hacks that are out there is simply taking small actions to start figuring that out, again back to the KISS Method. Before you can become your own best fitness critic, you have to take at least some of the necessary small steps to realize the areas that you can change and improve. For example, what foods can be the best energy in the morning vs. evening, removing the processed fast food, freeing up 10 mins for a morning workout, etc. Maybe it’s adding in the exercise with your children, or maybe you do have a great workout buddy that you can regularly count on for mutual accountability. Another great goal is finding healthier timed activities like skipping the happy hour at the bar. We all have rough workdays; you have a choice on how you decompress the day and relieve stress. Trust me, physical fitness activities bring way better mental and physical gains than alcohol and bar food.

So please remember, you have to care about having a healthier daily lifestyle for yourself. You can build a more bulletproof and energized daily life, yes, you can. Improving your daily energy gains and stress relief from proper exercise with rest and recovery will help you accomplish these added summer goals that you’re adding into your schedule. You’re the one looking in the mirror, and you’re the one that has to hold yourself accountable as you Become Your Own Best Fitic.

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Cigar Review

Alec Bradley, Black Market Vandal “The Con” | Toro Honduras                   6.0” x 50                    Mellow-Medium                93-Rated The Honduran Connecticut wrapper hugging this Toro is both silky and toothy, and is used to […]

Alec Bradley, Black Market Vandal “The Con” | Toro
Honduras                   6.0” x 50                    Mellow-Medium                93-Rated

The Honduran Connecticut wrapper hugging this Toro is both silky and toothy, and is used to conceal an aged combination of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-fillers. The pre-light aroma is sweet with a touch of barnyard…a really good sign.  Upon lighting, I am greeted with a rush of sweet cedar and sweet tobacco. The aroma is sweet and somewhat zesty. As the cigar burns, notes of cashew and cream enter, adding layers of balanced complexity to a well-made, elegant cigar.

Cohiba, Connecticut | Toro
Dominican Republic                       6.5” x 52                      Medium             95-Rated

Everything about this cigar screams luxurious. The name. The silky, seamless Connecticut wrapper from Ecuador. The shimmering, glossy band. I’ve had a dozen Cohiba Connecticuts since its release and can testify: the flavor and performance lives true to my first impression. The smoke is exceedingly creamy, sitting heavy on my palate and dusting every last taste bud with notes of cedar, toast and peanut, with a subtle touch of white pepper on the finish. The burn is slow and true, as each 6.5” Toro provides a soothing experience that pairs perfect with sweet rum or creamed coffee.

AJ Fernandez, La Gran Llave Double Corona
Nicaragua                   7.5” x 54                     Medium-Full                       93-Rated

This cigar looks like a chocolate bar. The dark, San Andres Maduro wrapper is dark, toothy and loaded with oil, and the aroma at the foot is rich and toasty. Fortunately, the cigar delivers. Each puff releases a heavy plume of smoke that fills the palate, offering a rich array of cocoa notes followed by hints of cream and coffee. After the initial inch, I pick up oak and rich tobacco, complemented by a long finish that includes pepper and a unique touch of almond. There’s a lot going on here, and I like it all. A lot.

Ruin10

Man O’ War Ruination,  10th Anniversary | Box-Pressed Gordo
Nicaragua                    6.0” x 60                       Full                         94-Rated

Big, heavy in the hand, dark and oily, solid from head to toe and softly box-pressed. That’s the look and feel of this 60-ring Man O’ War. From the get-go, the flavor is bold and pronounced. An earthy spice blasts the front of the palate, while each puff pumps out thick, pillowy clouds of gray, aromatic smoke above. The spice mellows after an inch, giving way to notes of leather and oak that linger long on the aftertaste. Midway through, the cigar grows more powerful down to the nub, with satisfying spices returning just before the end. A complex and eventful cigar.

My Father | Corona Limited Edition
Nicaragua                     5.0” x 42                           Medium-Full                       95-Rated

Cuban-esque. If you took just one thing from this short review, make it that: Cubanesque. From the 5”x42 vitola to the Cuban-born maker and hearty flavor profile, this cigar could be straight out of Havana. A dark Ecuador Habano wrapper sits atop a Nicaraguan binder and bold Nicaraguan long-fillers, promoting a flavor-packed bouquet loaded with notes of peanut, espresso bean, earth and pepper. I get no twists or turns, just a blast of flavor from start to finish, delivered in smooth fashion down to the nub. This cigar may change your mind about Coronas.

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